Charley – Right To Brag (Blogging 101 Prompt)

 

My husband Charley was diagnosed with aggressive prostate cancer eight years ago. It came as a complete surprise. He was healthy, we thought. He had no symptoms.

We’d only been married seven years and our lives were filled with adjusting to the every day demands that come with a mid-life marriage, not the least of which, for me, were: stepchildren in college; stepchildren moving into apartments; stepchildren getting married; stepchildren buying houses; ex-wife manipulating stepchildren; stepchildren playing mommy-daddy games. Ah, for better or worse. Marital bliss! You get the picture. Never having been married before and living on my own for so long, the whole domestic experience was a bit overwhelming for me. But we moved along through it all and then one day, after a routine check-up, Charley was sent for a biopsy. We went  to discuss the results and a doctor came into the room, introduced himself and said, “Well, Mr. Sweeney, you have cancer.”  All of the every day, domestic woes melted into a small puddle of nothing and then evaporated. Cancer changes all perspective. Cancer dwarfs every pain in the ass…”How the hell am I going to get this done on time? What else can go wrong today?! I thought you were supposed to do it! Where the hell are my keys! That’s not my problem! She wants what?! We can’t afford this! WTF!!!…every single pain in the ass curveball each day throws at us. Cancer is the knuckleball of all knuckleballs. It’s the sucker punch of all sucker punches. It’s a full house in a stacked deck and Cancer trumps all!

And so, our lives changes. We traveled to Johns Hopkins’ Medical Center in Baltimore for a consultation. We flew back there for the operation. But the cancer was not confined to the primary site. Eight weeks of radiation and then the prognosis. “Mr. Sweeney, this is an aggressive cancer………You have five years.” The silence was cloying. It clung to the desk, the chairs, the ceiling, the floor, the walls. It reeked! Fresh air seemed to have been sucked from around us leaving a vacuum. I couldn’t breathe. I could hardly control the fear.

My father died of prostate cancer. We kept him at home in the end. No palliative care back then. He suffered terribly. The night he died, I slept on a lounge chair in the bedroom. I listened to his rasps and I spoke to him quietly in the dark. I held his hand. When my mother came to the room in the early hours of the morning, i walked out the door. He followed me. She had just moved near to the bed. I heard a final rasp and then, “Claremary, he’s gone.”

I was clutching Charley’s hand. We were both trying to make sense of what we’d just heard, but not yet processed. Five years were not enough to do all of the things we’d planned to do once the kids were finally settled. We’d been married for seven years and hadn’t begun to enjoy our lives together. Suddenly I sat up. I went from disbelief and fear straight into anger. I was furious! I looked across the desk at his surgeon and calmly stated, “We don’t accept this.” I knew there were all kinds of treatments and drugs and studies being conducted. I’d researched them late at night into the early hours of morning. I’d collected them in a folder on my iPad. I explained this to his doctor and made a promise. “Charley will be the best patient you ever had. We’ll work with you. He’ll do everything he’s told. We’ll go anywhere. If you place him in these studies, I promise you, he’ll be the first man cured of prostate cancer. We’ll do whatever it takes.”

And that was our new beginning. Priorities shifted. Traveling back and forth to Maryland;taking part in the most advanced clinical trials; MRI’s, Scans, X-rays, Blood work; Cryotherapy, buying a few months with each study; trying to stay ahead of the aggressive cells that always found a way in the end  to circumvent each drug, each treatment.

We quickly learned to turn every trip to Baltimore into something enjoyable. our time in the hospital became incidental to any activity we had planned: A Baltimore Symphony Concert; Baseball at Camden Yards; roaming around Federal Hill or Feld’s Point eating ice cream; an excursion to Fort McHenry; dinner in a favorite restaurant; a rainy day at the aquarium. And in between our travels to Johns Hopkins, we enjoyed the comfort of our home and we fit in trips to all the places he’d dreamed of going.

On his 65th Birthday, I escorted him to the Eiffel Tower, timing it just right. When the sparkle lights went off, I applauded and whispered “Happy Birthday, Honey.” He’d always wanted to go to Normandy and we were there on June 6th for the annual ceremonies.

For his 66th Birthday, we went to Hawaii and spent the day at Pearl Harbor, another place on his wish list. He played the best golf courses on Maui. And there were rainbows in the sky and sunsets over the ocean every single day.

In April of this year, we headed for California and he played Pebble Beach, every golfer’s dream.IMG_6083

And then in June, a week after his 67th Birthday, one he was never supposed to see, we went down to JH and sat with his oncologist. The news was that Charley was in remission. The cancerous lymph nodes had died out; the tumor on his rib cage was shrinking and the bone was regenerating. Doctor Antonarakis declared Charley to be “his miracle patient”.  I just nodded and said, “I told you so.”

Now, Charley is not cured, yet, but it’s just a matter of time. He is the most resilient person I have ever known. He has survived being abandoned by his dad when he was only two years old. In college, he was a world-class long distance runner breaking the 4-minute mile at Notre Dame in his sophomore year. The Olympics were in his future until, on a run, he was hit by a car during a sudden January snow squall. Dream over. His perfect marriage disintegrated one evening when he came home to discover that his wife was not happy being married to someone who was “just a special ed teacher.” She had found herself a professor and a life in academia was what she preferred to the family life he loved. That, too would become a distant memory, leaving him to celebrate birthdays and holidays alone. During our years together, I’ve watched helplessly as he weathered countless betrayals by the two children he cherished. And through it all, he has acted with integrity and loyalty. He is truly an honorable man. They have no idea how fortunate  they are to have him in their lives.

I was not there for him during those past heart breaks,  but I was with him the day he was diagnosed with cancer and we have taken that journey holding each other’s hands in good times and bad. I am encouraging him to write about this journey; to share it with others. I’ve read so many blogs in the last two weeks written by people suffering from MS, heart disease, cancer, Parkinson’s, Alzheimers…or written by their advocates and caregivers. In sharing their journeys with others, they give people hope and assurance. Charley is now working  on his second draft and I am so very proud of him.














 

 

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48 thoughts on “Charley – Right To Brag (Blogging 101 Prompt)

  1. Thank you so much for sharing this amazing story. Yes, Charley is amazing and thrilled to hear about his adventurers and his triump over cancer. I have a friend is going thought colon cancer at this very moment, and yes, it does put things into perspective. In fact, I am
    visiting him now at the hospital, and thank you for sharing this …

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank, you Charles (I love that name!)My best to your friend. Many of the findings on prostate cancer can be applied to colon and breast cancer. It all has to do with immunology. There’s always hope. Now I must go visit some blogs. you first!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Thank you .. It sounds cliche, but it’s one day at a time. I have another friend also recently went through this process, and it took a while, but he did it .. Thank u for the encouragement .. I will share this with my friend ..

        Liked by 3 people

  2. Wow–what a wonderful story about Charley. I’m glad to know the special background of the cruise/trip to Normandy which we shared with you two, even dinner at the Captain’s Table, 2nd place winner of the music trivia contest and other fun activities that week. I now fully understand the significance of your “locks” on the French bridge as more than newlywed frivolity. I treasure our friendship and those memories!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Ah, the locks! They are actually taking them down because there is too much weight on the Lover’s Bridge. But I’ve still got my extra key around my neck!. It was a great trip with fantastic memories. We are definitely needing an encore soon Are you and Bill in? (We should have been 1st place! Those guys cheated with their cell phones!)

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh Clare, I am sitting here with a smile on my lips and tears in my eyes. I feel so grateful to be born in a world where you and Charlie exist. Your story is a fairy tale mired in reality. Your love and devotion for each other and for life is inspiring. My husband and I read this post together and we know in our hearts that he will recover. Your love and his will-power together will win this battle. Thank you for sharing your story with us.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Ah, Shafali, I’m so happy you shared this with your husband. Please know that the devotion has grown because and despite of all the adversity. When we changed our priorities and placed our relationship first, that was a turning point. Up to that time, I’m had strong doubts that outside forces would eventually tear us apart. It’s amazing how something so terrible could end up being such a blessing. Give that hubby of yours another hug for me. I’m heading to your blog now.It always brings a smile to my face.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Clare, I doubt if my recent blogpost will result in a smile… When something touches my heart, I share it with me. I just wanted to ask you – do you check your email (the one with the name of this blog)? I’ve sent you a couple of emails and I am not sure if they’ve reached you.

        Liked by 3 people

      2. i read the story already and commented no the strength of it. I, too, have a totally different tone when I write poetry. It is very unforgiving, believe it or not. That’s why we are both so versatile. I also went to the pen and inks again. The animals are all so wonderfully drawn. Now, that brought a smile to my face. I’ll check to see what’e going on with my email.

        Liked by 2 people

      3. Thanks. There are times when your tone and content changes…automatically. This is why I have a different site for my formal art portfolio. It helps a prospective client view my work without being distracted by the clutter.

        Liked by 3 people

    1. Yes, he is, Arti. But like everyone who has to endure hardships, he is also very vulnerable. Having someone to help through the hard times is a blessing. So many people have to weather the storm alone. It makes me sad to see them in hospitable waiting rooms. I’m glad that we have each other. Thank you for your good wishes. And I wish you a wonderful final week of Blogging 101.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. I am so happy with your inspiring post. Yes, you do have the right to brag. As someone who lost my dad two years ago to prostrate cancer, I know how harrowing it was for my entire family and for me it is almost a personal joy to hear such good news when someone’s cancer goes into remission. Good job and all the best to Charley.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I am sorry you had to go through such a heartbreaking experience. Hopefully, in the near future, nobody’s dad will have to suffer with this disease. I know there will be a cure.There is so much happening now that research is concentrating on the immune system to help the body heal. I think this is the best path for medicine to take. Thank you, Jacqueline. I just shared your note with Charley. He thanks you, too and sends his best to you and your family.

      Liked by 3 people

  5. What an inspiration! Charley sounds like an amazing, strong, wonderful person, father and husband. How lucky anyone is to know him! And how great it must be for him to have you by his side throughout all of it. I feel lucky to have met you on here and to somewhat know Charley through you also. I send my best to you both! 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

      1. I appreciate you reading my blog! 🙂 Blogging has been great, and what an awesome way to connect with people we otherwise would never have met. Thanks for asking about the music! It’s going well; we weren’t able to practice this weekend since Lucas had pulled something in his neck and we didn’t want it to get further damaged, but hopefully next weekend we’ll get some good practice in and perhaps be able to upload another video!

        Liked by 3 people

    1. To someone who is a caregiver, I knew you would like this story. Sometimes it appears that someone you know lives a charmed life. People always comment on the fact that Charley and I walk around holding hands. They call us “the newlyweds”! They don’t realize that I am holding on to him so tightly because I’m afraid of what might happen if I let go. Life is so tenuous. I’ve learned to grab at everything that comes my way. And in the process, sometimes I am even (like you) easily bemused (oops! I mean amused!) I’m taking a day off from blog writing to read some of the other 101er’s blogs. They are from all over the world and incredibly fascinating!

      Liked by 4 people

  6. Reblogged this on Wang and The City and commented:
    This post truly touched me. Cancer sucks and I hate to see close friends of mine have to go through this process from diagnose to treatment. This disease teaches me not to take anything for granted, and most importantly, celebrating life with love ones. Please enjoy this inspiring story from Claremary about Charley.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Charles, I just showed this to Charley and he was so gratified that you would share his story with others. It makes me happy too, because it proves to him what I keep telling him:he needs to finish his article about these experiences and publish it. People have to feel there is always hope. Thank you, Charles
      (again, I love that name) I’m honored that you reposted this to your own site. Clare

      Liked by 2 people

      1. My pleasure, again, thank you so much for sharing. It is important to know that there are so many amazing people, like Charley, have won this battle. This whole experience with my friend has humbled me. The fight is not over but we will win. On this note, I am off to see my friend at the hospital again. He had a rough day yesterday and it hurts me to see him going through this process. Best, Charles

        Liked by 3 people

  7. If I had any healing powers Claremary I would send them your way. Sometimes, just having faith can go a long way. I am happy that you two have been able to reconnect and ‘enjoy your lives together.’ Thank you for sharing such a beautiful story, one that it is dedicated to your remarkable husband and will inspire anyone going through a similar situation.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. You actually do have healing powers in the kind words that you’ve sent along. And they are much appreciated. Charley and are are enjoying every day that comes our way and taking nothing for granted. That makes for a very full life. Thank you for your comforting thoughts.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Trudi, I was taking time tonight to read some more of the many blogs I have come to love. As I signed into your Sunday post, I found my final post about Charley there at the top of your page along with your beautiful comment. I thank you so much for reposting this for those out there who may need some hope right now. Your friend, Clare

      Like

  8. Clare this was such a powerful piece of writing. I’m so glad you still have Charlie. I wasn’t so lucky. One never knows when life is going to takes a u-turn and change everything in an instant.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Shock, Anger and then the waking every day to the knowledge of that empty part of you that once was a loved one in your life. I’m sorry that you’ve had such a loss, too and hope that there are memories that sustain you on the worst days. I’m a gardener,too and watching and like you, helping things to grow is one of my joys. Clare

      Liked by 1 person

    1. So many people are going through the same type of situations Charley and I have experienced. Charley is working on an article about his journey and we hope it helps others. Today we’ve been painting the kitchen.Not very exciting, but Team Sweeney is getting it done! Thanks, Lynn.

      Liked by 1 person

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